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New nonprofit hopes to empower area refugees
Nizigiyimana Danifodi transfers a tomato seedling into the dirt of Munira Marlowe's Spotsylvania County garden.
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BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
Nzeyimana Jackson's two paychecks cover the rent on his Olde Forge townhouse.
But they don't put food on the table. Not literally, at least.
He's doing that with his own hands, and some help from a new local agency headed by a Spotsylvania County woman who sees helping refugees as her mission in life.
The Imani Multicultural Center opened for business in late May and aims to support area refugees in simple but long-lasting ways--such as creating a garden for a refugee wanting to get his hands dirty and grow his own food.
Jackson, a Burundian refugee, says he feels lucky to wash dishes and work for a local construction company. After all, he arrived in the Fredericksburg area last summer during a recession.
But he supported his family by farming as a refugee in Tanzania, and loves to grow vegetables. He has planted more than 1,000 tomato seedlings in newly tilled quarter-acre garden at the Spotsylvania County home of Munira Marlowe.
The garden is one of the first projects for Marlowe's new refugee aid agency, the Imani center.
The Kenya native first dreamed of the nonprofit while working as a resettlement director for the Arlington Diocese's Office of Refugee Resettlement. She took pride in finding jobs for nearly every refugee who came through her door in two years as director.
But Marlowe saw other, more complex needs. She wished for another group, with people to step in and help the refugees acclimate.
Marlowe left her job as resettlement director in 2008 to work with a counseling center on helping refugee teens emotionally. But that program ended in March.
Marlowe contemplated returning to the corporate world, where she worked before entering the realm of refugees.
Her heart wasn't in sales. So Marlowe, a Muslim who felt God was calling her to work with refugees, took a leap of faith.
On May 31, Marlowe kicked off Imani with a large gathering at a Dahlgren marina. Sitting on the edge of the Potomac River, she faced about 75 guests representing different organizations, nationalities and religions.